PH fails in international review, rights workers say

THE Philippine government received a failing grade at the recently-concluded United Nations Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights in the Philippines in Geneva, Switzerland, contrary to claims of success by its delegation head, local rights workers said.

“Despite attempts by the Philippine delegation to justify the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and to present a positive picture of its achievements on the political, economic, social and cultural rights of the people, most of the attending states still raised serious concerns on a host of human rights issues that remain unaddressed,” Philippine UPR Watch delegation to the Geneva event co-head Atty. Ephraim Cortez said. 

Delegates from 95 states, including Canada and European states made statements and recommendations on a host of human rights issues, including extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, as well as in politically motivated cases, Philippine UPR Watch said.

The Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg and Slovakia called for the implementation of a policy against the use of torture and safeguards against enforced disappearances, and arrests of perpetrators of rights abuses.

Estonia, Latvia and Hungary called for investigations of threats and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, the group said.

Various media outfits report that about 12,000 have been summarily killed under the Duterte government’s so-called war on drugs while dozens of activists, indigenous peoples and environmentalists have been assassinated by its all-out war against communist rebels as declared by its defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Ready to resign

Senator and incoming foreign affairs secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, head of the government team to Geneva, insisted he succeeded in his first foray as the Duterte government’s representative on the world stage.

In a press conference during the World Economic Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia recently, Cayetano said he is ready to be punished if he failed in his first mission abroad representing the Duterte government.

“I’m willing to resign, be jailed, be exiled if my presentation was wrong or if I intentionally misled anyone,” he said.

He said EJKs in the Philippines have been committed since the Benigno Aquino III administration.

The same countries have been criticizing the Philippines over EJKs since 2012, Cayetano added.

“I’m not saying that we have convinced them that it is not so. But we opened their eyes, minds and hearts to the fact that there are two sides to the story,” he said.

Welcome recommendations

Philippine UPR Watch, composed of lawyers, indigenous peoples, church and human rights groups, said they welcome the recommendations made by the member states.

It however expressed grave concern succeeding administrations are ignoring suggestions by the international community on how the Philippine government can curb human rights violations.

“(We are) gravely concerned that these recommendations still came up during the third cycle, despite having been noted in the previous two cycles of the UPR in 2008 and 2012. This is evidence not only of the lack of serious effort on the part of the Philippine Government to address these observations, but also of the ineffectiveness of its Philippine Human Rights Plan which did not at all help in curbing these violations,” Cortez said.

In a forum held immediately after the Geneva review, the group and other organizations called the Duterte government to task for the continued climate of impunity despite previous recommendations for it to investigate cases of human rights violations and to prosecute the perpetrators.

Cortez said the rights watchdog also plans to submit its report and recommendations on the human rights situation in the country to both panels in the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations “as part of a process of taking the government to task to fulfil their obligation to heed the voice of human rights advocates from the country and abroad.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image from UPR Watch)